Ahead of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, which takes place this week in Jordan, below is a breakdown of how the region is faring in terms of gender equality.

Out of 135 countries assessed in the Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2012, Israel (56) holds the top spot in the region, supported by a higher-than-average performance on the economic participation and opportunity sub-index and good results on the political empowerment sub-index. Israel ranks 29th on the labour force participation indicator and 17th on the years with a female head of state indicator.

The United Arab Emirates (107) continues to hold the top position among Arab countries and is the only country from the region that has closed the educational attainment gap. The UAE falls four places in the overall ranking this year due to a decrease in the estimated earned income and the percentage of women in parliament indicators.

Kuwait (109) is part of the top 20 performing countries on the secondary education enrolment indicator and is part of the top 10 performing countries on the tertiary education enrolment indicator.

Bahrain (111) is among the top 20 highest climbers of the 111 countries that have been included in the report 2006, with an overall score percentage change of 6.9% relative to 2006.

Qatar (115) is one the two countries with a zero score in the political empowerment sub-index, however, the country is among the top three performing countries in enrolment in secondary education and the top country in tertiary education.

The region as a whole is the least gender equal in the world. Overall, the region’s gender gap stands at 59%, where 100% represents perfect equality between men and women. This compares with 66% in Asia and the Pacific, the next lowest ranking region, and 74% in North America, which has the highest score. The Global Gender Gap Index compares 135 countries around the world using indicators to gauge to what extent women are held back by various factors relating to economics, politics, education and health.

MENA countries that rank the highest in the report have made significant investments in boosting women’s education in recent decades. However, they have had varying degrees of success at integrating women into the economy in order to reap the benefits of this investment.

Author: Yasmina Bekhouche is a Project Manager on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Team.

Image: School girls are seen in a street in Cairo REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh